Center for Urban Health

Directed by Drs. Plumb and Brawer, Department of Family and Community Medicine Faculty, the Center for Urban Health (CUH)’s mission is to improve the health and well being of Philadelphia citizens throughout the lifespan by marshalling the resources of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Thomas Jefferson University and its Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM), and partnering with community organizations and neighborhoods. The Center’s goal is to improve the health status of individuals and targeted communities and neighborhoods through a multi-faceted initiative, the ARCHES Project, which focuses on six domains/themes: Access and Advocacy; Research, Evaluation, and Outcomes Measurement; Community Partnerships and Outreach; Health Education, Screening and Prevention Programs; Education of Health Professions Students and Providers; and Service Delivery Systems Innovation.  

Through the ARCHES Project, the Center’s partners range from schools, homeless shelters, senior centers, faith-based communities and other broad-based efforts that recognize neighborhood economic, social, and physical environments as underlying determinants of health and disease. In addition, the Center undertakes more extensive assessments in partnership with community-based organizations to create programs that reflect community need, voice and culture. Projects are planned and evaluated individually based on established baselines set from existing data, key informants, focus groups and new surveys conducted that address critical attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and community assets/resources such as human, economic and social capital.  

Specifically, the Center for Urban Health:

  1. Serves as a bridge between Thomas Jefferson University/Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals (Jefferson Health) and urban neighborhoods, facilitating understanding and information sharing so as to improve health outcomes;
  2. Facilitates collaborations between the University/Jefferson Health and urban neighborhoods around research, community projects, program planning/implementation and evaluation.
  3. Improves the understandings of the University/Jefferson Health as they relate to the health needs and aspirations of the community; and concurrently, to improve the understandings of the community as to the work that the University/Hospitals does that has the promise of improving the health and wellbeing of the community.
  4. Strengthens the capacity of the Philadelphia neighborhoods by bringing the knowledge and skills available through the University/Jefferson Health to community identified needs and issues;
  5. Strengthens the academic offerings and opportunities within Jefferson as they relate to urban health and development;
  6. Initiates and monitors sustainable, collaborative interventions that will improve the health and well-being of Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Key initiatives of the ARCHES Project include care for homeless men, women and children; breast health education and referral to Jefferson’s low cost mammography screening program for sheltered women; diabetes self management education and support groups reaching 1,500 adults; development of a Diabetes Photonovel reaching 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Pennsylvania; community collaboration addressing policy and systems change related to obesity and access to fresh fruits and vegetables and safe places to be active; application of the chronic care model to obesity management in primary care practices reaching 900 individuals; obesity and diabetes prevention in a workforce development program; cardiovascular health literacy in regional health systems; and hypertension, stroke and prostate cancer education reaching 9,000 African American men; a cardiovascular risk reduction screening program in Corner Stores reaching underserved neighborhoods with screening, education and follow-up; and lipid and glucose community-based screening and education. 

Student Programs

Bridging the Gaps (BTG) - BTG includes the Community Health Internship Program (BTG CHIP) as well as two additional components in Philadelphia: the BTG Seminar Series and the BTG Clinical Program. Each academic year, students representing health and social service disciplines, including medicine, dentistry, nursing, social work, creative arts in therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pharmacology, public health, law, physician assistant, and related fields, take part in BTG.

JeffHOPE - Established in 1992, JeffHOPE (Health Opportunities, Prevention and Education) of Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the largest and most robust Student-Run Clinics (SRCs) in the country. It operates 5 weekly clinics at 6 locations throughout Philadelphia, sees over 2000 patient visits annually, and has a staff of over 600 medical student volunteers, 50 faculty and resident volunteers.

Refugee Health Partners - The goal of the Refugee Health Partners is to improve and advocate for the health and well-being of refugees living in Philadelphia. Over the past two years, Refugee Health Partners has initiated yearly community outreach programs including flu clinics, health fairs, English as a Second Language and health education classes, picnics with refugee communities, and adopt-a-refugee

Our Team

James Plumb, MD, MPH – Director
Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH, MCHES – Associate Director
Neva White; DNP, CRNP, CDE – Senior Health Educator
Suzy Suarez– Health Educator
Frances Abby Cabrera, MPH – Administrative Coordinator

Current Research

  1. Career Support Network – integrating chronic disease prevention/management and occupational therapist into workforce development programs, targeting low-skilled, low resourced men and women, including offenders in a pre-release program – partnership with the Federation of Neighborhood Centers - funded by RWJ
  2. Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – integrating cv risk reduction and nutrition counselling in corner stores – partnership with the Food Trust – funded by Astra-Zeneca
  3. SEPA-READS Cardiovascular Health Literacy Coalition – health literacy training in 13 Regional Hospitals, and centers serving seniors – train the trainer model – partnership with the Healthcare Improvement Federation – now expanding statewide; six year funding through PA DOH
  4. Diabetes Self-Management Education programs in multiple community sites (churches, community centers, YMCA) – funded by Fuller Foundation
  5. Project Home/Pathways FQHC – care programs, outreach, cancer research, smoking cessation, food insecurity screening, behavioral health integration - multiple funders, contracts, etc.
  6. Palliative care/ Hospice photonovel development and assessment – TJUH funding
  7. Community Benefit Three-year Strategic Plan – multiple domains/dimensions to reduce disparities in target neighborhoods – TJUH funding
  8. Partnership with Philadelphia Housing Authority and Sharswood Stanton Community Development Corporation (Lower North Philadelphia – west of Broad) – community health needs assessment and strategic plan related to Health and Wellness – funding pending
  9. Partnership with Norris square Civic Association (Latino community) – needs assessment and projects to be determined – funding pending

Plumb JD. Homelessness: Care, Prevention and Public Policy. Ann Internal Med 126; 15 June 1997:973-975.

Hojat M, Fields SK, Rattner S, Griffith M, Cohen MJ, Plumb JD. Attitudes toward Physician-Nurse Alliance: Comparisons of Medical and Nursing Students. Academic Med 72:October 1997: S1-S3.

Hojat M, Fields S, Veloski J, Griffiths M, Cohen M, Plumb J. Psychometric properties of an attitude scale measuring physician-nurse collaboration. Evaluation & the Health Professions. 22: June 1999: 208-220.

Knapp ML, Benett NM, Plumb JD, Robinson J. Community Based Quality Improvement Education for the Health Professions: Balancing Benefits for Communities and Students. Journal of Inter-professional Care 2000; 14:119-130.

Plumb JD. Homelessness: Reducing Health Disparities. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2000; 163:172-173.

Alade F, Brawer R, Plumb J, Patkar A, Leone FT, In-hospital Bedside Smoking Cessation Preferences among Patients and Nurses. Chest 2002; 122 (4): 4S

Witt D, Brawer R, Plumb J. Culturally appropriate preventive services in the African American community. Primary Care Clinics in Office Practice: Preventive Medicine 2002; 29:487-494.

Brisbon N, Plumb J, Brawer R, Paxman D. The asthma and obesity epidemics - the role played by the built environment - a Public Health perspective - Journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2005; 115: 1024-102.

Hausman, A., Brawer, R., Becker, J., Foster-Drain, R., Sudler, S., Wilcox, R., and Terry, B., (2005). “The Value Template Process: A Participatory Evaluation Method for Community Health Partnerships”, Journal of Public Health Management Practices, 11(1), 65-71.

Weinstein LC, Plumb JD, Brawer R. Community engagement of men. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. 2006; 33: 247-259.